Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world. A cataract is a clouding of the natural lens inside the eye. While cataracts can be caused by infection, drug side effects, and physical trauma, the most common cause of cataracts by far is aging. According to a 2011 study by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, cataracts affect nearly 22 million Americans age 40 and older, and by age 80, more than half of all Americans have cataracts.
The first noticeable symptoms of a cataract are usually dull color vision, glare around light sources (especially at night), and blurry vision that is not helped by a change in eyeglass or contact lens prescription. The rate of progression of cataracts varies widely, in some cases taking years from initial onset of symptoms to total blindness. Because cataracts often progress slowly, many patients do not realize how much their vision is deteriorating until there is some major vision-related event – perhaps a fall, or a car accident – that could have been avoided if the cataracts were treated in a more timely manner.
Fortunately, cataracts are as treatable as they are common. Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures in the world. In cataract surgery, the cloudy natural lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens known as an intraocular lens implant, or IOL. Unlike your parents’ or grandparents’ cataract surgery, the modern cataract procedure, as performed at practices like Hoopes Vision, is a no-shot, no-patch, outpatient procedure that usually involves no stitches. Patients leave the surgery center under their own power and are usually able to return to most normal activities the next day. Removal of a cataract and implantation of an IOL is covered by medical insurance plans, including Medicare.
Today’s cataract patient has the choice of modern, high-tech IOLs such as toric IOLs to correct astigmatism, or multifocal IOLs like the TECNIS® Multifocal. These upgraded lens implants can reduce or in many cases completely eliminate a patient’s dependence on glasses or reading glasses after surgery. A highly qualified cataract surgeon will be able to determine if a patient is a good candidate for these lenses, and present the patient with the best options for his or her unique eyes and visual needs.
In the last three years, cataract surgery has taken yet another significant leap forward with the advent of laser-assisted procedures. In laser cataract surgery, a computer-guided laser automates the first steps of the procedure, including making incisions and helping to break up the cataract for removal. The speed and precision of the laser makes for a safe, predictable surgery with a great visual result. Hoopes Vision is proud to have been the very first center in the world to acquire two different brands of cataract laser.
For Cataract Awareness Month, we offer this self-evaluation checklist. If you or someone you love answers “yes” to one or more of the checklist items, it may be a good idea to schedule an examination with a cataract specialist.
– Have you noticed any deterioration of your vision in the last 5 years?
– Is your vision blurry or cloudy even with your glasses or contact lenses?
– Have you noticed halos around lights and/or over-sensitivity to light?
– Is your vision especially poor at night, e.g. when driving?
– Do you experience double or multiple images in one eye?
– Is your vision not as colorful or vibrant as it used to be?
The cataract specialists at Hoopes Vision offer a complimentary cataract screening. If you have never been diagnosed with a cataract, but think you may have one, please call the office to schedule the free appointment.
Note: The complimentary cataract screening only determines presence or absence of a cataract. In the event a cataract is detected, a complete eye exam will be needed before surgery. That pre-surgical exam is billable to insurance, but may have an out of pocket cost depending on the patient’s insurance plan. Call the office for details.